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Helping to ensure vaccine effectiveness in Sudan

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Vaccine_effectiveness_training19 February 2016 - A WHO-supported training course on vaccine management was held in Khartoum last week, bringing together cold chain officers, physicians, epidemiologists, and technical focal points from the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Programme on Immunization, WHO, UNICEF and nongovernmental organizations. The purpose of the training was to instruct participants on correct handling techniques for vaccines at each level of the supply chain, in order to preserve vaccine efficacy and minimize wastage.

“The importance of the workshop is underscored by the rising costs of vaccines in the Region, and the greater storage capacities required at every level of the cold chain,” said Dr Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO Representative for Sudan. “WHO encourages all countries to maintain lower stock levels, accurately forecast vaccine requirements, and prevent equipment break-down, so that they can effectively vaccinate their communities,” she added.

One vaccine requiring particular care is oral polio vaccine (OPV). Used in mass polio immunization campaigns across the country, the vaccine is ordered and transported in large quantities – up to half a million vials, or 10 million doses, at a time. For maximum effectiveness, OPV must be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, and used within a period of 6 months. Once opened, vials must be used within 6 hours. Disruption to the cold chain, at any level, can render the drops useless. Ensuring proper coordination and respect of the cold chain can therefore make a world of difference in efforts to protect children against this crippling disease.

“OPV like any vaccine depends on a consistently high standard of supply chain management, which can only be achieved if all of the links in the supply chain comply with current good storage and distribution practices,” said Dr Al Gasseer. “Sudan is a hot and dry country, and many areas experience frequent power failure. Poor road infrastructure and unreliable transport also pose a risk [to vaccines]. This workshop has been designed to train participants how to plan for and work around these problems,” she said.

The training covered topics such as vaccine forecasting, materials needed for maintaining correct storage temperature, correct vaccine storage procedure and managing cold-store capacities, and minimizing damage to vaccines during transport. A simulation exercise was included to test participants’ skills and knowledge.

Similar training exercises will be conducted by participants in their respective states later this month, to build local capacities. 

Sudan’s next immunization campaign for polio is scheduled for 14 March. The campaign will aim to reach 4.9 million children under 5 years of age with OPV. 

Related link

Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Key health-related statistics

Total population (000s) 40 783
Total health expenditure (% of general government expenditure) 7.2
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births) 311
Primary health care units and centres (per 10 000 population) 1.5
Total life expectancy at birth (years) 65.1

Source: Framework for health information systems and core indicators for monitoring health situation and health system performance, 2018

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